The study will comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and examine various alternatives, while considering environmental and historical impacts to the community.
The existing two-track bridge, which is owned by Amtrak, is a crucial link along the busy Northeast Corridor (NEC), but is nearing the end of its useful life. Along with Amtrak and Maryland's MARC Commuter Rail passenger trains, this section of the NEC is used by Norfolk Southern to carry freight across the Susquehanna River.
"The Susquehanna River Bridge is a crucial crossing on the NEC," explained Stephen Gardner, Amtrak vice president of Northeast Corridor infrastructure & investment development. "Along with our partners, we continue to work toward a vision for the next generation of this bridge to accommodate the forecasted growth in rail traffic and meet the needs of the local community."
"This study is the first step in breaking a major bottleneck along the busy Northeast Corridor, which will ultimately improve trip time and reliability for our MARC passengers and freight shipments to the Port of Baltimore," said Maryland Transportation Secretary James T. Smith, Jr.
"Replacing the Susquehanna Bridge is critically important for travelers on the Northeast Corridor. A new bridge enhances safety, improves service reliability, reduces trip times and will provide a significant boost to the region's economy," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. "We need to move forward with engineering assessments and planning now so that the region's future is not shortchanged."
The project team will develop and evaluate various alternatives based on the need to improve capacity and enhance trip time, reliability and safety for commuter, freight and intercity passenger rail service on the NEC. Alternatives will include new and/or rehabilitated structures with up to a four-track total capacity crossing the river and the reconstruction of the approaches to the bridge, spanning approximately three miles on either side. The study, which is expected to be complete in mid 2017, also will consider possible improvements to the navigation channel for marine users. Preliminary engineering and environmental work is being funded by a $22-million federal grant from the FRA. The project is not yet funded for design or construction.
Continuous and active public involvement is important to this process and helps to identify community needs and concerns. A public information session is scheduled for Monday, April 28, 2014, at the Havre de Grace Activity Center (351 Lewis Lane, Havre de Grace, Md. 21078). The community is invited to attend the fully accessible open house anytime between 5 and 8 p.m. to meet the project team, learn about the project, ask questions and provide feedback.
A project website has also launched to provide detailed information about the study, including: need, description, bridge history, study area map, environmental review information and proposed project schedule.